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May 23, 2008

Tell It Like It Is. Or How Marketing Wants You To Tell It

This has to be one of my favorite applications for the annotations in Acrobat 8, but has nothing to do with reviewing documents!

One of the most popular ways to publish and share content in the form of PowerPoint slides is as a PDF file. Makes sense, right? You can secure the file to prevent changes. Everyone sees exactly the same thing. You can include slide transitions and bullet-point animations. And more. But that’s all for another time and another blog.

Many presenters, eLearning content authors, and Adobe marketing types like to (always?) put speaker notes with the PowerPoint slides. This is as a guide, for ancillary information, or in the case of those Adobe marketing types, telling everyone else in the company what to say. But converting a PPT to a PDF used to mean that those notes would either be “lost” or have to “printed” to PDF separately. Not any more.

PDFMaker’s preferences for PowerPoint on Windows (sorry my Mac brethren) includes an option to “Convert Speaker notes to Text notes in Adobe PDF” under the Setting tab. You can get to this dialog box by either clicking on the “Preferences” button in PowerPoint 2007, or choosing “Change Conversion Settings” from the Adobe PDF menu in PowerPoint 2003 and earlier.


Click OK and the settings will remain for future conversions. Now convert to PDF from PowerPoint using the PDFMaker buttons or the Adobe PDF menu, and take a look at the resulting PDF file in Acrobat.

What you will now see on every page that has speakers notes is a PDF Sticky Note in the top left of that page (my Mac brethren, you can now come back into this conversation). If you hover over that Note or double-click to open its pop-up, lo-and-behold, there are the speakers notes from PowerPoint.


Now those notes will always appear on the page unless you delete or hide them all. The neat thing is that these notes are on a PDF Layer, whose view you can toggle on or off. Open the Layers Panel tab on the left of your Acrobat window and you will see a layer called “Background” and another called “Presentation Notes”. Just as you would do in other Adobe creative tools that use layers, click the eye icon to toggle the display of the layers on or off.


By the way, the Background layer will show and hide any background graphics you may have had in your PowerPoint design. That’s useful if you want to print the slides but don’t want to use up all that expensive ink when printing backgrounds – yes, layer visibility can affect printing too! Look at the detailed “Layer Properties” under the Layers Navigation Panel Options menu button.

It’s important to remember: Acrobat is not a replacement for tools like PowerPoint when it comes to creating presentations and eLearning content. However, it’s ideal when it comes to being able to share that interesting and engaging content reliably across computers, networks and devices. The ability to then use that content in meaningful ways as a PDF just makes it all the more valuable.

May 16, 2008

Diff’rent Strokes

It has just occurred to me that I’ve been writing about commenting and electronic reviews of PDF documents, without sharing with you all the different ways you can actually conduct and tracks reviews with others. Silly me. Unless of course, you’d rather just give feedback to yourself – how constructive.

  • Manually email the document. Then add comments, email to the next person or back to the initiator. Old skool methodology. Nothing wrong with it. As long as you don’t mind having to deal with multiple files, merging all the comments together yourself, and not having any tracking tools – apart from your email inbox.
  • Email-based Reviews. Introduced with Acrobat 7.0, this tracks who you invite to a review by email, and makes it easier to merge comments that are emailed back from reviewers in to your single master document. But the exciting thing about this was that it was the first time Acrobat Professional had the ability to enable the document for commenting and analysis in the free Adobe Reader. Meaning you can work with virtually anyone. Think you have to start buying Acrobat for all those you want to collaborate with electronically? No sir!
  • Browser-based Reviews. Actually older than email-based reviews, it was introduced with Acrobat 5.0. Instead of the comments being stored in the PDF file itself, the comments are stored in and tracked from a central shared location: a Network Folder, a SharePoint workspace, a WebDAV folder, or a SOAP repository. The PDF is opened and commented on in a web browser. This way, everyone can see each others comments. It makes review cycles that much quicker as reviewers can add comments in parallel (rather than waiting for an email), and be more efficient as you’re not saying the same thing as someone else (unlike some meetings I’ve been in). The downside is that it requires Acrobat to participate, and some configuration of the reviewers Acrobat preferences (either manually or via an FDF file).
  • Shared Reviews. This is my document review method of choice since the introduction of Acrobat 8. It provides all the benefits of Browser-based Reviews in that the comments are stored in a shared location for all the reviewers to see and reply to. But it’s much easier to participate in a review. The document is enabled for comment and markup in the free Adobe Reader, meaning virtually anyone can participate: but they work in their browser, in Acrobat, online or offline. Acrobat or Reader will synchronize the comments as soon as you are connected again. For review initiators, Acrobat will track who has responded and how many comments have been added. See my entry on “Why Shared Reviews?” for more details.
  • Customized Collaboration Workflows. This is one you won’t find an option for in the box. But developers can create their own custom commenting and collaboration workflows and repositories for Acrobat using SOAP. It’s based on Browser-based Reviews, and has many additional benefits for developers. Interested? I suggest reading the excellent “Acrobat Online Collaboration: Setup and Administration” guide.

Like the sound of one or more of these workflows? Good! You’re about to take a step into a world where review cycles are fast, accurate, efficient and kinda fun. If you want to learn more, check out my video tutorials on Email-based and Shared Reviews.

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